New Grant Supports TMCC and ACE Students

Students work on a machine in a technology lab.
Rebecca A. Eckland

TMCC and ACE Charter School have a strong partnership, offering opportunities for high school students to earn college credit through a dual-enrollment model as well as the “Middle College” program, in which ACE students take TMCC Career and Technical Education (CTE) classes after their normal school day ends. Tuition for these classes, traditionally, have been fully funded, enabling students from various backgrounds to access quality education and training. However, with the recent changes to educational budgets, some of these opportunities were not going to be available to students...until grants from the Tesla K-12 education gift in partnership with the Department of Education and the William N. Pennington Foundation opened several doors of opportunity. 

“TMCC and the Pennington Foundation have been instrumental in helping us develop [this] relationship. Everyone from the TMCC President on down to the Deans have been supportive of ACE and what we do and our mission. Without that support, we wouldn’t be where we are. This really affects families [in our community] in a positive way,” said ACE Director Bob DeRuse. “Our students will be positively impacted by the opportunities offered by this new grant, especially the continuation of the My Ride to Work Program. In all... it’s pretty powerful.” 

During the 2019–20 school year, at least 140 ACE students took college courses at TMCC’s William N. Pennington Applied Technology Center every day. These students have the opportunity to earn a certificate or Associate Degree while earning their high school diploma. ACE’s current enrollment is 195 students with a goal of at least 200. This fall, there were 55 incoming 9th graders, 46 rising 10th graders, fifty 11th graders, and 44 seniors. 

The grant supports ongoing student success by providing tuition support for 54-70 ACE students. This year, ACE was forced to reduce its budget for dual credit tuition totaling $37,000 for the academic year 2020-2021. These grant dollars would support students in certification and degree programs in construction project management, HVAC/R, CAD Technology and Welding, to name a few.

“This grant helps to create options for students who otherwise wouldn't have those options,” said DeRuse. “Paying for students’ tuition [at TMCC] is what we have always done in the past. When we asked students if they would continue if they had to pay the tuition themselves, only 20% responded that they would be able to afford that expense. Having that support from this grant will certainly help students to continue their education through our Middle College program. That changes lives, and that is important,” DeRuse said.  

Providing Students Access to ACE

In addition to providing students with assistance with tuition, the grant will continue to fund the “My Ride to Work” (MRTW) program, which has enabled students and families to access the educational opportunities at ACE no matter how far away from the school they may live. Last year, 40% of ACE students used MRTW. According to a survey that was administered in September 2020—and that received a 77% participation rate from parents of ACE students—the MRTW program is enabling students to reach their career goals by easing the burden of transportation for these students and their families. 

“We really appreciate the morning bus,” responded one family.  “My son takes a commuter RTC bus from Carson City to his pick up point at Summit Sierra mall. I feel much more comfortable knowing that he gets off the public transportation to get on the morning bus. The drivers have been great. I’m very thankful.” 

The program will continue thanks to the generosity of both the Tesla K-12 education gift and the William N. Pennington Foundation, which will give $60,000 each to continue the MRTW service. In addition to the transportation benefit for ACE students, ACE experienced a number of indirect benefits including a reduction in the number of first period tardies, a rise in academic success, a later ending time for school resulting in easier pick up for parents, and additional enrollments in TMCC courses including Advanced Machining/Manufacturing and HVAC. 

Simply put, the MRTW program is helping students to show up on time for their classes, safe and sound. “Thank you for providing a safe ride for the ACE students every morning! It takes a massive weight off my plate and I feel the MRTW is safer than car travel, especially on bad weather days. It provides our family with enough time for everyone to get to work and school on time,” said the Maragan Family. 

Answering the Call with the Tool and Die Program

A large part of the grant will be used to create a Tool and Die program, the first to be offered in Nevada, that will support Tesla and other industries that are in critical need of these professionals. While TMCC already offers a certificate and degree in CNC Machining, a Tool and Die program offers students an additional pathway and career opportunity that builds on the skill set offered in that existing pathway. 

Students currently in the CNC Machining program complete 35 credits to earn a CNC Operations Certificate. According to Machining Instructor Laure’L Santos, students complete coursework in CNC lathe, CNC mill, manual mill and manual lathe classes. They also learn blueprint reading, quality control and receive OSHA training and certification. Students in the Tool and Die program would build upon this foundation. 

“Since ACE High School is one of the few that offer a machining program to their students through this partnership with TMCC, the Tool and Die program seems like another natural step to open up additional opportunities for these students to get to their next level of training,” said Santos. The pilot program is projected to begin in Spring 2021.

This is yet another way TMCC and ACE High School are working together to build opportunities for students to join the rapidly growing local workforce. The $324,176 grant from the Tesla K-12 education gift fund in partnership with the Department of Education will support the continuation of the My Ride to Work (MRTW) Program, the creation of a new Tool and Die program while enriching the longstanding partnership with ACE Charter High School, and pave the way for future generations of students to support the economic growth in our community.

For more information about the Technical Sciences at TMCC, contact the division at 775-856-5300.